Does the ICB Have a Conflict of Interest?

How to get your CPD points

a registered BAS agent wanting to join an industry association
Membership with an industry association, even if a registered BAS agent, is not compulsory and you don’t have to rely on them as a source for obtaining your requisite CPD points.

NOT LONG AGO we published a post about industry associations, such as the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB), and how they were useful for would-be BAS agents because a membership makes it easier to register with the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB).

Industry associations also help registered BAS agents, who are required to complete a minimum of 45 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) within a three year period, to maintain their CPD hours by providing them with access to “approved” training courses, webinars, seminars, and so on.

In the past, most industry associations would refer BAS agents to a number of partner training organisations that provided relevant training courses. However, industry associations, such as the ICB, have increasingly started running their own training courses, both online and in-person.

CPA’s conflict of interest

Although the TPB provides guidelines for the types of training courses that will be accepted as evidence of CPD, industry associations still possess a considerable amount of oversight. If a BAS agent is a member of an industry association, the TPB doesn’t question their CPD training because it’s supposedly been approved by the industry association.

Recently, questions have been raised about CPA Australia’s potential conflict of interest as the organisation also operates a financial planning business, CPA Advice, as an affiliate of the industry body.

But new rules that will come into effect in 2024 stipulate that to provide financial advice, you must be a member of a monitoring body or professional association (such as CPA Australia), but that the professional association cannot be an Australian Financial Services licensee or an affiliate of a licensee.

Is providing and overseeing CPD training a conflict?

EzyLearn, until very recently, used to be an ICB partner. When the ICB started offering their own training courses, their promotion of partner training providers, like EzyLearn, reduced considerably in favour of promoting their own training courses and seminars.

In other words, in many ways, the ICB started competing with their partner organisations. Our return on investment (ROI) had never been great anyway, so EzyLearn decided to cancel our corporate sponsorship as it seemed the ICB had a conflict of interest. Although the TPB may not see it that way.

What about the Business Support Program?

For $396 a year, the ICB also offers businesses that do not have a bookkeeper doing their books, access to training materials and information on how they can manage their own bookkeeping on their own without a bookkeeper.

That’s despite charging BAS agents and bookkeepers as much as $480 annually in membership fees, which they promise will help them to get clients — and the sponsorship fees to partner training providers that provide the same or similar services.

Membership with an industry association is not compulsory

Joining an industry association can be incredibly useful, but membership is not compulsory. And as industry associations try to find new ways to extract revenue from the industry — through paid memberships, sponsorships, training courses and even undercutting their members and sponsors by directly offering services which help businesses do their own bookkeeping — they stop being a critical resource for professional bookkeepers and BAS agents working in the industry.

Instead, bookkeepers and BAS agents can complete their CPD training anywhere. For $175 a year (or $15 per month), EzyLearn offers a membership called the Bookkeeping Academy, which gives members access to a complete library of content, including instructional videos, on how to carry out common bookkeeping tasks in MYOB, QuickBooks and Xero. Visit the Bookkeeping Academy website for more information.

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Online bookkeeping accounting training courses for CPD points

What Type of Education Does The TPB Accept For Its New CPE Requirement

Type of Education for CPE Requirements of the TPB

What Type of Education Does The TPB Accept For Its New CPE Requirement

Earlier this year, the TPB changed the requirements of the tax and BAS agent registration renewal process, now making it essential for all BAS and tax agents to participate in some form of education under its new continuing professional education (CPE) requirement.

According to the TPB, tax agents must participate in a minimum of 90 hours of CPE over the standard three year registration period, while BAS agents must participate in a minimum of 45 hours over the standard three year registration period. The Institute of Certified Bookkeepers have enabled completion of our Microsoft Excel Training Courses be accepted for CPD points.

Types of study approved by the TPB

As you’ve probably guessed, for your study to be recognised by the TPB and go towards your CPE registration requirement, the study has to relate to your area of work as a BAS or tax agent. While a short course on DIY home maintenance wouldn’t be covered, a seminar conducted by a qualified accountant who specialises in the building industry would be recognised by the TPB, even if it’s being led by a colleague at the firm where the BAS agent works.

The TPB has specified a number of activities that they consider relevant to tax advice, BAS and tax agent service you may provide:

  • Seminars, workshops, webinars, courses and lectures
  • structured conferences and discussion groups (including by phone or video conference)
  • tertiary courses provided by universities, registered training organisations (RTOs), other registered higher education institutions or other approved course providers
  • other education activities, provided by an appropriate organisation
  • research, writing and presentation by a registered tax (financial) adviser, tax or BAS agent of technical publications or structured training
  • peer review of research and writing submitted for publication or presentation in structured training
  • computer/internet-assisted courses, audiotape or videotape packages
  • attendance at structured in-house training on tax related subjects by persons or organisations with suitable qualifications and/or practical experience in the subject area covered
  • attendance at appropriate Australian Taxation Office (ATO) seminars and presentations
  • relevant CPE activities provided to members and non-members by a recognised professional association
  • a unit of study or other CPE activity on the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 (TASA) including the Code of Professional Conduct (Code).

If you’re a member of a recognised professional association

The second-to-last activity included in that list, you may have noticed, accepts any relevant activity provided by a recognised professional organisation. There are quite a few professional organisations recognised by the TPB, as you can see on their website, but the one probably most relevant to bookkeepers is the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB), with which EzyLearn is also a training partner.

The ICB is an association established to support bookkeepers and BAS agents by regularly holding seminars and training workshops, giving members access to marketing materials – such as customisable e-newsletter templates and unique email addresses – listings on the ICB directory and IT support, among many other things. Because they’re also accredited with the TPB and recognised by the ATO, they also possess a fair bit of influence with both organisations, making the lives of its members much easier.

In this case, being a member of the ICB, gives you access to a number of TPB-certified continuing professional education courses, seminars, lectures and workshops that can be counted as part of your CPE quota; members can also access a CPE register within the ICB dashboard to record their CPE activities.

Courses you can study as an ICB member

As a member of the ICB, you’re able to take any of the courses that they consider relevant to your profession as a bookkeeper and BAS agent, and which they consider to be continuing your professional education. This would include any of our MYOB or Xero training courses, but would also include our Excel and Word training courses as they’re both used to assist you in doing your job as a bookkeeper and BAS agent.

If you’re a BAS agent and your registration with the TPB will come due on or after July 1, 2016, you will be required to have participated in CPE to be eligible for renewal. Joining the ICB and taking advantage of the many free and discounted seminars, workshops and courses, like one of our online training courses in MYOB, Xero, MS Excel or Word, is a good way to ensure you remain compliant with the TPB’s tax and BAS agent registration terms.

To find out more about joining the ICB, visit their website. Alternatively, if you’d like to learn more about starting your own bookkeeping business or working as a home-based bookkeeper, subscribe to our blog for all the latest news and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Why Continuing Professional Education is Important for Bookkeepers

CPD for Bookkeepers is Becoming More Important

CPD CPE and ongoing education is very important to the Tax practitioners board TPB for Registered BAS AgentsEducation is obviously something we think is very important, whether you’re changing careers, starting a new business, or looking to upskill for a promotion. But what about education to keep your current job? The Australian Government thinks that’s equally important, especially for BAS and tax agents.

In March this year, the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) changed their renewal process to now include continuing professional education (CPE) as a mandatory for all registrations after July 1, 2016. Between now and June 30, 2016, it’s sufficient for BAS and tax agents to merely show they have read and understood the new CPE policy to renew their registration, but this arrangement can only be used once; moving forward those BAS and tax agents will still need to complete further education to register again as a BAS or tax agent the in the future.

Are You a Currently a BAS or Tax agent?

Over the last few years, the Government has introduced a lot of new measures that BAS and tax agents have had to comply with in order to continue to offer their services to clients, namely the changes in 2010 that made it mandatory for all BAS and tax agents to hold a minimum qualification of a Cert IV in bookkeeping.

The new CPE requirement could seem like just another measure that BAS and tax agents need to comply with just to be able to keep their jobs. It’s not. CPE has been introduced to ensure that BAS and tax agents continue to understand, not just their own industry – that of tax and finance – but also how other industries are changing too.

There are more people leaving their jobs as employees and starting to work for themselves as consultants and freelancers and contract workers, across a wide array of industries. Marketing professionals, for example, no longer simply come up with marketing hooks for companies; they also have to understand how to create websites and how SEO works and social media. In some cases, they even become unofficial spokespeople and sales reps for the companies they’re consulting with, leveraging their contacts on their clients’ behalf.

CPE makes BAS and tax agents more valuable, not less

This vastly complicates a marketing professional’s tax if that marketing professional’s job now encompasses the roles of several other professions within it. Similar changes have been observed in bookkeeping, with registered BAS and tax agents now providing more operational and administrative-type services, in addition to just bookkeeping.

The point, then, of CPE is not to make it more difficult for tax and BAS agents to renew their registration with the TPB, but to help tax and BAS agents to remain as highly skilled as they’ve ever been, in an ever-changing labour market. And the better skilled you are as a BAS and tax agent, particularly those self-employed BAS and tax agents, the more value you’ll be able to provide your clients, and the more work you’ll get from them in return.

To learn more about continuing professional education for bookkeepers, visit the TPB website. Otherwise, to read more about bookkeeping, particularly starting your own bookkeeping business, continue reading our blog.

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Bookkeepers: Stand Out from the Crowd and Become ICB Certified

You'll stand out by becoming ICB certified and BAS registered.
You’ll stand out by becoming ICB certified and a registered BAS agent.

Many of the students who take our MYOB training course in order to start their own bookkeeping business wish to then become certified with the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB).

How to Get ICB Stamp of Approval

Since 2006 the ICB has had a set of requirements bookkeepers must meet before they are permitted the ICB stamp of approval. Among these requirements – which also include possessing a Certificate IV in Financial Services (Bookkeeping) and personal indemnity insurance – all bookkeepers seeking to become certified with the ICB must possess a minimum of two years’ working experience.

For many bookkeepers starting out, getting that two years experience is a tough hurdle, particularly since the vast majority of bookkeepers in Australia are, according to General Manager of the ICB, Rick van Dyk, “independent sole traders”. “That’s why the ICB holds networking events at 59 locations around the country,” Rick says. “Because the best way to get the experience you need to become an ICB certified bookkeeper is to network with other bookkeepers.”

The ICB also holds online webinars each month, but Rick recommends attending networking events in person, because it provides you with more opportunity to network and get to know other bookkeepers.

Good Ways to Gain New Business

While it may seem like a lot of hoops to jump through in order to obtain membership to an organisation that’s voluntary, being an ICB certified bookkeeper does set you apart from the many other bookkeepers; it’s also a way of gaining new business, as the ICB is often the first port-of-call for many businesses looking for a contract bookkeeper.

But Rick van Dyk says that if your really want to stand out as a contract bookkeeper, become a registered BAS agent. “If you’re a contracting bookkeeper, you can look after a client’s data entry and do their reconciliation, but you’re not allowed to print any of the reports and advise your client on figures and so forth, as that contravenes the Act,”

Rick explains. There are currently about 9000 registered BAS agents in Australia, so there’s plenty of opportunity for bookkeepers to enter into this field by becoming a registered BAS agent with the Tax Practitioners Board.

Rick also offers this last piece of advice to budding bookkeepers-to-be: “Learn to use Excel; Excel still plays a very important part of the bookkeeper’s role, so it’s important bookkeepers know how to use it – fluently.”

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You can find more information about out MYOB course here or our Excel course here. Alternatively, if you’d like more information about becoming certified by the ICB, visit their website.